A select Record of week to week of Important Declarations and Statements:
Monday September 11th
Mr Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for the Dominions, in a broadcast address replayed to the United States and to the Empire:
“You may remember the famous story of the Roman envoys who went to Carthage before the First Punic War. Confronted by the Carthaginian Senate their spokesman said: ‘I have here two gifts, peace and war, take which you choose.’ No such grim alternative was given to Herr Hitler. Every inducement was offered him to enter the way of peaceful negotiation. The Polish Government had accepted the principle of negotiation. Herr Hitler deliberately and with set purpose made negotiations impossible. Instead, he chose to embark upon a war of naked aggression, and this country and France has in consequence fulfilled their undertaking to Poland.
“The German Chancellor carried cynical dissimulation so far as finally to involve Poland because Poland had failed to accept peace proposals which she had never even received from the German Government. There has never been a more flagrant mockery of international good faith.
“Poland was read to negotiate, as Czechoslovakia was ready to negotiate a year ago. Herr Hitler has preferred force. He has made the choice; he must suffer the decision. For us now there will be no turning back. We have no quarrel with the German people, but there can be no lasting peace until Nazism, and all it stands for, in oppression, cruelty and broken faith, is banished from the earth. This is an issue that admits of no compromise.
“Herr Hitler has claimed that his sole aim was to remedy the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles which he contended, was the root of all evil. This it was, we are told, which had forced him to build his colossal armaments, to March his legions into Austria, to imprison its Chancellor and to absorb Austria into the German Reich. This it was what compelled him to break faith with the British and French Government, and, despite his pledge, so recently and so solemnly reaffirmed, to invade and subdue Czechoslovakia and to attempt to reduce her people to the status of hewers of wood and drawers of water.
“This it was that left Herr Hitler – we are assured – with no alternative but to turn against Poland, with whom some five years ago he had solemnly signed a pact which was to run for 10 years.
“Faced with such a catalogue of broken vows and discarded pledges, how is it possible to escape the conclusion that the Treaty of Versailles was not a grievance to redress but a pretext for the use of force? Five times in the last 80 years rulers of Germany have embarked with only slightest pretext upon a war of aggression. Against peaceful Denmark in 1864, against Austria in 1866, against France in 1870, against the whole world in 1914 to 1918 and now against France, Poland and Great Britain in 1939.
“With such a record her present rulers, had they been honest and sincere, might well have thought that they should accept to negotiate with nations who wanted nothing more than to live at peace with Germany, and who, as the documents which have been published show, excluded no subjects from peaceful discussion.
“Herr Hitler and his Nazi associates would have none of it. Flouting all the lessons of history, ignoring or deriding even their own country’s experience of British character, they preferred yet once more the path of lawlessness, the path of misery and of bloodshed, the path of anarchy and want. Let the Nazi leaders ask themselves now to what destiny they are leading the German people.
“Our conscience is clear. Our memory long, and our determination is unshaken.
“Let there be no mistake about this. Our determination to see this war through to the end is unshaken. We must make it clear to the Nazi leaders, and if we can to the German people that this country, as the Prime Minister said, has not gone to war about the fate of a far away city in a foreign land. We have decided to fight to show that aggression does not pay, and the German people must realise that this country means to go on fighting until that goal is reached……”
General Smuts in a message to the People of South Africa:
“Germany’s policy of force extends to her former colonies. The oldest and the foremost of these is South West Africa. This constitutes threatening danger to the Union. If she remains neutral, South Africa cannot expect the help of other Powers, including Great Britain, when she is attacked over a mandate which has 20,000 Afrikaners among its population. It would be a breach of faith to leave these people to the danger of falling under such a hell as the Nazi regime.
“Moreover this is no time for displaying our separateness from the Commonwealth, which is our best friend and customer. In taking sides against Germany the Union is also participating in a struggle which touches deeply the basis of Christian values and our most valued political and civil rights.”
Tuesday September 12th
Second message from the Independent Socialists of Germany to the British Independent Labour Party, smuggled through a neutral country:
“The Gestapo, the German secret service, is now in control over the workers in Germany. The Fortifications workers, who have been forced to leave their homes and their families, are watched by the Gestapo. Storm troopers and Blackshirts see that no revolutionary word is spoken. Guards drive them to work for the long hours without a chance of rest.
“This is a pamphlet which our fortification workers are spreading in spite of the persecution of the Gestapo; in spite of the terror of Hitler’s storm troopers:
Comrades of the ____; fight from canteen to canteen. Fight against Hitler’s policy of aggression and war. We want shorter hours and more food. Give us butter and bacon, eggs and fat. We do not want war. We want to return to our families.
“In spite of the terror of the Gestapo, the illegal fight goes on in Germany. Starved exhausted, and persecuted, we and our comrades will win the battle for Socialism, inside or outside the frontier, in peace or in war, in liberty or in prison. The fight goes on to the last breath.”
Wednesday September 13th
Mr Chamberlain in the House of Commons:
“The people of France and the people of Great Britain are alike determined not only to honour to the full their obligations to Poland, but also to put an end once and for all to the intolerable strain of living under the perpetual threat of Nazi aggression. Our French allies are, like ourselves, a peace-loving people, but they are no less convinced than we are that there can be no peace until the menace of Hitlerism has been finally removed. Il Faut en finir.”
Thursday September 14th
Mr Chamberlain in the House of Commons:
“His Majesty’s Government have noted this announcement [the German decision to bomb open towns], which on the face of it is in flat contradiction of the German Chancellor’s recent statement to the Reichstag when he disclaimed any desire to make war on women and children.
“The restrictions we – like the French – have imposed upon the operation of our own Forces were based upon the condition of similar restraint being observed by our opponents, and H.M. Government must, of course, hold themselves free, if such restraint is not in fact observed, to take such action as they may deem appropriate.
“But I wish to add that, whatever be the length to which others may go HM Government will never resort to deliberate attack on women, children and other civilians for purposes of mere terrorism.”
Monday September 18th
Rt. Hon. A Greenwood in a message to the Labour Party:
I realise to the full the feelings of members of the Labour Movement about yesterday’s news. The USSR has invaded Poland. She has done so on grounds which cannot be justified and which have been used previously by Hitler as excuses for his monstrous outrage.
No one can foretell what may happen next. It is idle to speculate, but what we must do is to face realities. The new situation, however it may develop, will gravely increase our difficulties.
It is folly to pretend otherwise. The struggle will be sterner, but whatever may befall cannot alter the issue by one iota.
The British Working Class Movement has adopted a definite and unalterable attitude against aggression, alas, on two fronts.
However the forces of the world may be aligned in the immediate future, the spirit of those who stand unflinchingly for freedom will be victorious.
Therefore I say, do not let base passions get the better of steady judgement.
Do not let hatred obscure our minds and deflect us for one moment from the greatest task in the history of mankind-the final downfall of overlordism, dictatorship and tyranny. It may be that in the ebb and flow of war Poland will for a time be wiped off the map of Europe, but there will be a glorious resurrection.
Labour says to the Poles, therefore, bitter and tragic though your struggle may be, we will not desert you. We cannot desert the basic principle of our movement without being traitors to ourselves.
We shall never be guilty of treachery. Loyalty to a cause is in every fibre of our being. Our message of hope to Poland is that in the days to come she will stand as an imperishable monument to steadfastness and faith in freedom when dictatorships have been swept from the face of the earth.
With Poland’s rise from the ashes of the war in full-fledged freedom there will also come freedom for other peoples now dwelling in the dark shadows of cruelty and oppression.